I left on Wednesday evening after work and had planned to reach Poitiers after a 750 km (466 mls) ride that night. In my hometown, I had to put petrol and to document the start of the Saddle Sore 3000 with a receipt. But…the machine was out of paper! I rushed to the next station and tried hectically to put another litre of petrol in the tank, this time I received the receipt I needed. Quick, quick, I wanted to get going. Three hours later I passed through Paris, fighting with my new Zumo 350. As it crashed the fourth time, it erased all the data and programmed waypoints. Luckily I had still the Zumo 660. The rules for the IBA rides specify that unlike in rallies, a fuel stop has to be every 500 km at latest. I had programmed a stop after 480 km and when I got off the bike I realised that the bag of the auxiliary tank was open?? And the tap of the tank as well??? Where was the tap? I realised that I had lost it: Normally, I follow a strict routine when putting petrol, but the missing receipt had distracted me. This meant I had ridden with an open tank for about 500 km! Gulp! I found an emergency tap in the shop that should work for the moment. At 23:15 I arrived at the hotel, checked in, had a quick shower and had a sandwich I had purchased at another petrol station before. I had a five-hour sleep and after a quick cookie breakfast I checked out, put my rain suit on and was back on the road at 6:20. The morning was fresh, but dry. Before Bordeaux, I had another fuel stop, as I only had filled the main tank. I passed the famous Pilat Dune, the Landes and Biarritz. I entered the Basque Country and passed San Sebastian and Bilbao. The atlantic climate welcomed me: rain and wind. I passed a truck and a wind blast almost made the bike slip when I rolled over a wet arrow on the tarmac. Woah! I rode along the Cantabrian coast and soon reached Santander, the capital of Asturias. Rain. Soon I had to stop at the planned petrol station before the 500 km limit. When I filled the tanks, I noticed a strong smell of petrol – and noticed a growing puddle under the bike….what the…? Instinctively I closed the fuel tap. What was this? The carburetor overflowing?? I made my planned lunch break and munched a sandwich, the usual riding diet. When I went back to the bike to make an oil check, I noticed that there was again a petrol lake under the XBR. Damn! I had forgotten the second tap of the aux tank! The friendly owner provided me with a funnel for the oil…and looked worried when he saw all the petrol on the floor. I started the engine, but the petrol kept flowing. “your motorbike….” “I know, I know, but I have to leave!” Brooooooom. When riding, the carb was fine, just stopping resulted in a mess under the bike. Rainy Asturias had me back again. I continued to Oviedo and turned southwards towards the mountains and the Pajares Tunnel. It got colder and colder and finally I disappeared in the fog. On the other side of the tunnel, the rain stopped, but it was still pretty cold. I passed León and rode through the high plain of Castilla, still accompanied by some occasional showers. I finally understood what happens sometimes to the Dispatch 1 distribution touch box. When I touch the light switch that triggers the distribution box, the display sometimes would not recognize the box. I have to try another time and to switch on all the devices via the display as the box apparently does some “hard reset” and erases the settings. At least now I know how to handle this.
At the toll booth before Madrid, I had to do some multitasking: close the rear fuel tap, grab the toll ticket, find the credit card, open the front fuel tap a bit, pay the toll and close the tap. An official walked around my bike and seemed to be very curious. Suddenly he pointed to the side: this way! Ooops! I realised that this was a control by the Guardia Civil. And I was listening to music on my iPad and couldn’t hear what the cop was probably telling me. I tried to switch off the music, but I couldn’t manage as I had put the rain cap on the tank bag. Finally I took off the helmet. Not too late, because the cop was apparently already pissed off. “Hooola!! De donde vienes?” (Where are you coming from?) “De Alemania!” “Qué bandera es esa en la matrícula?” (What’s that flag on your number plate?)…[….]..
Oho! So that’s were the wind is blowing! I’m close to Madrid, in the middle of a raid of the Guardia Civil and this guy wants to know what that flag with red and yellow stripes is on my number plate. Sooo, if I tell him the truth that it’s the Senyera, the catalan flag? Although I had placed it upside down, so that it was basically the flag of Barcelona. I had put it there 13 years ago when I lived in Barcelona to make it clear I was not a tourist. Nobody ever complained about it. Hmmmm….so the truth would be like a red rag to a (Spanish) bull. This would mean they would shake me down, for sure. Something I wanted to avoid, as I carried the Valentine One in my cockpit, ehem. Two of his colleagues were already curiously watching my gadgets…..OK, let’s try this… “Es de la Provenza” (It’s from the Provence [it’s actually the same flag]) …”De donde? (Where?)….”de la Provenza”….”Quééé?….”de la Provence“……[…..]…..”Eso está en Alemania?” (That’s in Germany?).
Ouch. At least this conversation had confused him so much that I could go on. What a strange encounter! I chose the M50 that lead around Madrid in a large circle, but at least I avoided the traffic jams in the city. Suddenly I was riding in the sunshine! On the way down to the Valencian coast, the air got warmer and I only had to ride one hour in the dark before I reached the place of my cuñados in Valencia after another fuel stop at 11 p.m. We had to chat a lot and I was served some delicious food, what a change after all the sandwiches. I had some 5 hours of quality sleep and on 6:20 in the next morning I was back on the road again. It was a lovely morning and I was more than one hour ahead of my schedule. I made good progress and at a quarter to ten I made my first fuel stop in Andalusia in the sun. My next stop would have to be in Sevilla for a fuel receipt as it formed the turning point of my ride. At noon I reached the planned petrol station in Sevilla, got my fuel receipt and munched again …a sandwich. I took off my warm underwear for it was hot now. I could feel it in my legs: the heat of the motor was channeled by the fairing and transferred directly to my legs. Hmmm. An interesting experience, I’ll have to find a solution for this problem because the temperatures in the IBR will be higher than this 30°C.
I had reached my turning point and continued north to Extremadura under blue skies. The highway was lined with many of the famous cork oaks, a beautiful sight. The ride was very relaxing, good weather, scenic sights and no traffic. It was still warm, but when I passed the border to the Castillian high plain, the temperature dropped and the air was rather cool now. Past Salamanca, I had to stop and to put some petrol, oil check, drink and ….munch a sandwich. In the morning, I had reserved a hotel at the border in Irun, so I knew that I had to ride 1600 km on that day. My calculations showed me that I was 90 minutes ahead of my planning and that I would reach the hotel already at 9:30 p.m. Without a reservation, I would have continued two hours more, but I still would have enough time on the next day to the Ride to Eat meeting point in time. I passed Valladolid and Burgos and when I entered the Basque Country again, the temperature dropped from cool to cold. The weather was sunny but this was a bit too chilly for my taste now. I was still riding in the same gear as in hot Sevilla, but the temperature had dropped some 25°C. When I missed an exit at Vitoria, I had to take the next one, so I could stop on the secondary road and put on at least a jumper. Before that, I had passed a special force raid. Not just a police control, this was really serious. Equipped heavily with bulletproof vests, big machineguns and determined looks, it was obvious it was better not to make a wrong move. [Apparently some ETA terrorists were captured on that day]. The road down to the Atlantic sea was winding, but very beautiful. Very scenic, this reminded me of Switzerland: densely wooded mountains, deep valleys, picturesque villages. At least it got a bit warmer now. Finally I stopped for another fuel stop and bought my breakfast for the next morning. The booked hotel was not far away from the motorway and after the check-in I took a quick shower and enjoyed the luxury to go down to the restaurant and to have a real dinner. I was well in time, but I better wanted to leave early the next day. The distance to the ride to eat meeting point, the western tip of France, was some 900 km away and I wanted to be there on time at 4 p.m. I got up at 5 a.m. and by 5:45 a.m. I hit the road again. The weather was cool with some occasional short showers and a stiff breeze from the Atlantic sea. After 400 km, I stopped before I had to and warmed up 5 min with a hot coffee. I was still almost two hours ahead of my plan and could enjoy a relaxed pace on that day. When I reached the Bretagne, the speed limit was only 110 km/h, but I was not in a hurry. Some 150 km before Brest, I stopped for another fuel stop and munched the sandwich I had bought the evening before in Spain. Disgusting, there should be some physical punishment for people who produce or sell things like that sandwich. Some kilometers later I realized that the speedometer did not work anymore! Not again! Was it the same problem with the speedometer gear like in South Africa? Luckily, I had still the odometer reading from the GPS. Finally I arrived at 14:30 at the hotel in Brest and left my luggage in the room. It was only here when I realized that I still needed a fuel receipt to document the end of my Saddle Sore 3000! I had 2996 miles so far; this meant that I needed a petrol station between the hotel and the Pointe de Corsen, the meeting point. This was not that easy, but finally I found one in the Sat Nav and a couple of minutes later, after 3005 miles (4835 km) and 71 hours, I had finished this task and had only some 20 minutes to go to the Pointe de Corsen. I arrived some minutes before 4 o’clock and found many people there. We made the obligatory picture, without rain! After the picture, Jo turned up with this new KTM 690 Duke and was about to finish a Bun Burner (1500 miles in 36 hrs). Jo and I did our first Saddle Sore 1000 during the EuRR Rally in 2002 – both on XBRs. So it seems he’s back in business *g*.
We both went back to the fuel station where he could also get a final receipt for his ride and then we changed bike back to the hotel. I knew that the KTM is no ordinary thumper, but this….WOAAH! Amazing! It has a punch like a hot small V2 combined with no weight and excellent shocks. Heidewitzka!
After some quick check, I tried to fix the speedometer gear (I couldn’t) and a shower later we all met for dinner and a lot of petrol talk. Frank’s 1100 GS was losing oil from the rear drive so he was busy to find another mode of transportation to return home the next day (rental car). The next morning, everybody left home and after another 900 km and a lot of traffic jams, I arrived back home. To my surprise, this was an easy trip and I was not tired at all. 7 hours of sleep were very refreshing and I concluded that the fairing and the day-long saddle really change it all. Staying 17 to 18 hours on the bike riding pose no problem at all.
This was exactly what I wanted to know and I’m looking forward to the Brit Butt Rally next week. The only technical problems were the odometer and the overflowing carburetor. In the meantime, I realized that the root cause for the damage speedometer gear was the cable. I have cannibalized the caferacer XBR for the time being and the speedometer is fine again. I have opened the carburetor (seemed to be clean) and I have installed a petrol filter. A new rear tire was installed and a problem was detected: When I removed the auxiliary tank (I wanted to move it a bit to the front), I realized that two bars of the holders were broken.
This means I need some quick welding before next Thursday, because I’ll be leaving for the Brit Butt Rally then.
Conclusion: My confidence in the endurance of the bike and also in mine have increased a lot, if I get enough time for sleep, the pace of the Iron Butt Rally should be no problem.